Nearly a year ago, I decided to watch all of the episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I was a fan of the show after I first saw an episode back in the 1990s. There were many episodes I hadn't seen, but once I saw it, I watched it when I could.
I never reworked my life around the show. Never said "Oh, I got to get home to watch MST3K," or any of the silly stuff some people do about TV shows. But, I watched it when I could.
Most of the shows I watched had Mike as the host. Since I came in late to the party, I didn't see as many of the Joel episodes, and many were not part of the regular rerun schedule, particularly Season One.
After many episodes came available via Netflix, I watched those. Some were new to me, others were old favorites. I also purchased DVD collections, and had some VHS episodes. Plus, I found out about places that offered unreleased episodes. One of my favorites was MST3KVideos.com, although I got some content from other sources. I also had some friends who had copies of episodes, and, after doing a little digging, discovered that I had access to all the episodes. Well, all except the first three. Or four.
Okay, some review would be in order.
MST3K began as a local program on TV station KTMA in Minneapolis. Then, after a year, it went national on The Comedy Channel. Two years later, The Comedy Channel became Comedy Central, and MST3K continued for another five years there. Then, after being canceled, it was revived by The Sci-Fi Channel for three more seasons, before being canceled. Reruns aired for another 4½ years.
Recordings exist for all of these episodes, except the first three episodes on KTMA and the pilot/demo episode. I have official releases of every episode, and fan copies of every available unreleased episode. And, I watched them all. In order.
Though I was more familiar with Mike when I started, I quickly gained an appreciation of Joel. Seeing the 18 available KTMA episodes, I saw how the show developed and progressed over the course of that first local channel season. By the end of that season, they had everything clicking.
I liked the Dr. Erhardt character as well the development of the Tom Servo character that Josh (J. Elvis) Weinstein did. When Frank Conniff's character, later called TV's Frank, replaced Dr. Erhardt, I gained a greater appreciation of the character, seeing how the character developed. I liked TV's Frank before, and liked him even more afterwards.
Though, by the time the show went off the air, I had seen more Pearl Forrester than Clayton Forrester episodes, seeing the development of Dr. Clayton Deborah Susan Forrester was a joy. Trace Beaulieu's development of Crow (later, "Art" Crow T. Robot) was a treat.
Seeing the Observer and Ape Planet episodes I had missed during the run of the show was also a joy. Kinda put the characters in a slightly different light.
The transition of Joel to Mike was also well-done. The show never skipped a beat. That's not a slap at Joel by any means. It's a credit to the crew Joel and company assembled around the show.
After seeing all the episodes, I have a sense of completeness. It was a great TV show, and it survived the replacement of every major character that was on the first episode.
These changes, by the way, generated some controversy among the fans at the time. Most of the focus was on the hosts, but here's a list of the changes in characters over the course of the show.
Host: Joel vs Mike.
Villain: Dr. Forrester vs Pearl Forrester.
Sidekick: Dr. Erhardt vs TV's Frank vs Pearl Forrester vs Professor Bobo and Observer.
Servo: Josh Weinstein vs Kevin Murphy.
Crow: Trace Beaulieu vs Bill Corbett.
Gypsy: Josh Weinstein vs Jim Mallon vs Patrick Brantseg.
Cambot: Bot running a camera, Gypsy-like bot/camera, snake-like camera, floating camera.
The only one I feel strongly about is Cambot. I prefer the floating camera version. I kinda prefer Dr. Forrester to Pearl, and kinda prefer Frank as the sidekick, but for the rest, I truly don't have a preference.
They did a great job of assembling cast and crew, and kept the writing top-notch throughout the entire run of the show.
I'm glad I did this.